GOOD MORNING MIDNIGHT

danny lyon | brooklyn, summer 1974

How wonderful are these photos of Brooklyn in the summer of 1974, from photographer Danny Lyon? For the unacquainted, as always: Lyon, along somewhat more widely acclaimed contemporaries Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Frank, and Larry Clark, was among the photojournalists known for their focus on imperfect reality and on the photographers’ involvement with their subjects’ lives, rather than striving for well-composed, technically perfect images from a physical and emotional distance.  

Lyon’s deliberate choice to embrace imperfections — most of these photos are ill-exposed, crooked, blurred, or interrupted by a too-close body or object — belies his empathetic intent: the heat and energy and constant buzz of the city comes through here in ways that “better” photographs don’t permit.  The images here call to mind Helen Levitt, Walker Evans, and a grittier, less “fashionable” version of Bruce Davidson’s Brooklyn Gang.  Also: restraining myself from gushing again about the warmth and grain and depth of fields of old film photography but that horse has been dead for ages so I’m only going to passive aggressively mention it in passing (o see what i did thar?)

Plenty more of these after the jump, but also worth noting are Lyon’s images of Chicago motorcycle gangs in The Bikeriders, which put LIFE magazine’s documentation of motorcycle gangs sorely to shame.

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tank urban outfitters bandeau aa dress worn as skirt aa belt aldo shoes steve madden
Heat requires digging apart the 18 things I own that will be acceptable for heat and combining them in new ways: old tank tops, an American Apparel dress from college, pumps I bought for a friend’s wedding, and that belt I wear too much. (Sorry, kids, can’t afford to be wearing fabulous designers all of the time. Sometimes, American Apparel has to do.) I’m obsessed with breezy midi and maxi skirts for this summer since I can’t exactly show up to work in the trashy cutoffs or Alex Wang hot shorts I wore every day last summer when working as a photo assistant… 

The pigtails and eyeliner were a half-Prada SS10 half-Bardot impulse decision for keeping my newly long hair off my neck — I figured the modest and grownup outfit, combined with all that hairspray and backcombing, would keep it from looking too childish.

 Also! Look! I have a roof! Which lets me use that 50mm lens that does so badly in low light quite nicely — turns out it’s not horrendous when used in the right conditions. (And I’m not angry, I swear - just squinting against the sun glaring off the silver paint on the roof!)

tank urban outfitters
bandeau aa
dress worn as skirt aa
belt aldo
shoes steve madden

Heat requires digging apart the 18 things I own that will be acceptable for heat and combining them in new ways: old tank tops, an American Apparel dress from college, pumps I bought for a friend’s wedding, and that belt I wear too much. (Sorry, kids, can’t afford to be wearing fabulous designers all of the time. Sometimes, American Apparel has to do.) I’m obsessed with breezy midi and maxi skirts for this summer since I can’t exactly show up to work in the trashy cutoffs or Alex Wang hot shorts I wore every day last summer when working as a photo assistant… 

The pigtails and eyeliner were a half-Prada SS10 half-Bardot impulse decision for keeping my newly long hair off my neck — I figured the modest and grownup outfit, combined with all that hairspray and backcombing, would keep it from looking too childish.

 Also! Look! I have a roof! Which lets me use that 50mm lens that does so badly in low light quite nicely — turns out it’s not horrendous when used in the right conditions. (And I’m not angry, I swear - just squinting against the sun glaring off the silver paint on the roof!)

And today, in Slightly Offensive Things We Already Knew And Sadly Could Have Done Ourselves With A Box Of Crayons And A Map Of The City, And We All Also Already Saw On Gawker But I’m Reposting Anyway: racial demographics of NYC!  More cities available at Eric Fischer’s Flickr. Fun extra credit project here: compare this to the Netflix rentals by zip code the NYT put together a few months back. (As well as all the highly entertaining maps at Very Small Array, which you also probably should be looking at occasionally if you are not already.)
(As a both self-critical and critical-of-demographic-statistics side note which I noticed after being all “WTF is that cluster of pink in Crown Heights all about?!” and realizing that I had some sort of charming metal thing going on where “Hasidic Jews =/= White People” (which, wait - is that subconsciously antisemitic of me, or would it be culturally insensitive to consider them “white people” especially considering the isolationist real estate dramarama with the community in this city?) — I also find it interesting how little this map also conveys — aformentioned tensions with Hasidic communities in South Williamsburg and Crown Heights can’t be understood at all from this map alone, nor the heavy Russian or Polish populations throughout parts of Brooklyn, nor the fact that East Harlem is mostly Puerto Rican while Bushwick is largely Dominican and other Latino, etc, etc.  I’d also really love to see this map as a time lapse over years — did you know Bushwick was once largely populated by Germans?)

And today, in Slightly Offensive Things We Already Knew And Sadly Could Have Done Ourselves With A Box Of Crayons And A Map Of The City, And We All Also Already Saw On Gawker But I’m Reposting Anyway: racial demographics of NYC!  More cities available at Eric Fischer’s Flickr. Fun extra credit project here: compare this to the Netflix rentals by zip code the NYT put together a few months back. (As well as all the highly entertaining maps at Very Small Array, which you also probably should be looking at occasionally if you are not already.)

(As a both self-critical and critical-of-demographic-statistics side note which I noticed after being all “WTF is that cluster of pink in Crown Heights all about?!” and realizing that I had some sort of charming metal thing going on where “Hasidic Jews =/= White People” (which, wait - is that subconsciously antisemitic of me, or would it be culturally insensitive to consider them “white people” especially considering the isolationist real estate dramarama with the community in this city?) — I also find it interesting how little this map also conveys — aformentioned tensions with Hasidic communities in South Williamsburg and Crown Heights can’t be understood at all from this map alone, nor the heavy Russian or Polish populations throughout parts of Brooklyn, nor the fact that East Harlem is mostly Puerto Rican while Bushwick is largely Dominican and other Latino, etc, etc.  I’d also really love to see this map as a time lapse over years — did you know Bushwick was once largely populated by Germans?)

bruce davidson

So what if I’ve posted about Bruce Davidson before? It’s been a while since I cranked out a good old-weird-New-York post (though here’s an old favourite of those. &2, &3, et al) and these images will basically never stop seeming representative of this city to me, those sort of photos that look like some idealized notion of your city’s history and seem almost fake in how dead-on they are in that way that all good photographs are, but then you realise that actually probably has a lot to do with your concept of NYC in the 50’s/60’s/70’s as being based entirely on iconic photographs and films like this to begin with, so of COURSE these pictures just look too good to be real, which is weird to think about, but I mean basically I just want my life to look like Brooklyn Gang all of the time. 


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The new location of the Brooklyn Flea is gorgeous, and I don’t know if they got more vendors or better curating or what, but that place is seriously an absolute goldmine of unbelievable vintage junk and awesomeness and seems way better than I remembered it to be — my boyfriend and I spent like an hour debating that “Zebra Section” sign and almost bought a bunch of those 60s deadstock office supplies up there too.  (Though all I ended up getting was an awesome vegan hotdog.)

Too many maps for one day? I can’t help it, this was great.  “Williamsburg,” Brooklyn (and apparently sometimes Queens?) as defined by Craigslist apartment postings. (For those of you not from the area — this map covers a much larger distance than it appears to, and a lot of VERY different neighborhoods. Which you could actually determine by their Netflix queues as per the previous post!)

Too many maps for one day? I can’t help it, this was great.  “Williamsburg,” Brooklyn (and apparently sometimes Queens?) as defined by Craigslist apartment postings. (For those of you not from the area — this map covers a much larger distance than it appears to, and a lot of VERY different neighborhoods. Which you could actually determine by their Netflix queues as per the previous post!)

This is exactly the kind of garbage that I end up creaming my sociology-pants over for days: interactive maps of Netflix rentals and queues in twelve major metropolitan areas, and the fascinating endless cultural/demographic/social/economic/movie-distribution-budget-etc information you can glean from that. Guess what, guys? Mad Men is for urban rich white people, mostly in NYC (Denver doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Don Draper.) Will Smith movies are for the suburbs and middle America! Nobody outside of very major metropolitan areas (the only places where, to the best of my knowledge, the film was in theatres) cared about Man on Wire! My current zipcode rented Milk most this year, whereas in the area where I grew up that honor goes to, uh, Twilight. The distribution by critics is also interesting and makes it pretty obvious that critical reception and public reception/interest are, uh, not exactly clearly correlated.

This is exactly the kind of garbage that I end up creaming my sociology-pants over for days: interactive maps of Netflix rentals and queues in twelve major metropolitan areas, and the fascinating endless cultural/demographic/social/economic/movie-distribution-budget-etc information you can glean from that. Guess what, guys? Mad Men is for urban rich white people, mostly in NYC (Denver doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Don Draper.) Will Smith movies are for the suburbs and middle America! Nobody outside of very major metropolitan areas (the only places where, to the best of my knowledge, the film was in theatres) cared about Man on Wire! My current zipcode rented Milk most this year, whereas in the area where I grew up that honor goes to, uh, Twilight. The distribution by critics is also interesting and makes it pretty obvious that critical reception and public reception/interest are, uh, not exactly clearly correlated.

Loved this ed/photoset/whatever-it-is that showed up on Rackk and Ruin today (and this one too, actually, from Flair magazine and almost exactly the same in style); not really sure where the images are from or for what magazine etc, but just so dead-on with that sort of romanticized blue collar urban Americana… Reminded me a lot of (and I’m guessing was inspired by) Bruce Davidson’s  Brooklyn Gang:

brooklyn fail

You know, I started out writing this long-ass ranty intellectual post about why NY Mag’s feature on the ‘Brooklyn scene’ and the Dirty Projectors and how, like, this guy Todd P is totally changing the world got really under my skin and somehow made me kinda depressed.  Like about how they DO actually start to get to this good point they make about Brooklyn as a self-sustaining  micro-economy of NYU, Vassar, and Oberlin grads who buy 7”s and beer and all hang out at the same places and work at the same venues and play in bands and are secretly depressed about the fact that the internet and the recession meant that their jobs of being a rockstar/journalist/wealthy a+r guy at some cool-ass label/writer/artist/whatever just genuinely aren’t options that exist in the world anymore but here’s this option, seriously, to hang out and exist in this little bubble (challenge, friends: how many people in this photo do you know? point proven) that fuels itself and does feel vibrant and alive and community-ish when everything else is stagnant.

But about how despite getting to that, it’s just awkward to talk about a ‘New York scene’ in this other-y way (“let’s write an article about hipsters for the 47823th time”)… or even about how living in a moldy cheap prewar Bushwick brownstone crammed to the brim with band practices isn’t, like, ‘a big deal’ (speaking of which, anyone want one? I’m subletting my room. no, seriously.)… or my endless rant about blogs vs magazines and how even the bloggiest of forward-thinking NYC magazines seems awfully pedantic and behind things in comparison…. or just about how downright cringe-worthy and off-base that list of "40 songs that define the Brooklyn sound" was and why for some reason that made me really, really sad about the death of media and the music industry and Brooklyn and THE WHOLE UNIVERSE or whatever, all at once.

Then I realised that, yes, sometimes the only appropriate reaction is snark and between that and, natch, the comments on the articles themselves (“The sound of right now? I’d suggest a quick use of the fact-checking machine called google…Some of the songs are from 2006 and 2007. That’s like 4 lifetimes in indie-band terms." or "This list seems as telling a commentary on contemporary journalism as it is Brooklyn’s music scene…. Yeah… Brooklyn… we get it. What else.”), I got nothin’.

Sigh.

Bushwick BK posted this great video of a 1976 NBC newscast about ‘youth gangs’ in the good old 83rd precinct, which in the 70’s was the precinct with the most crime in all of NYC — and has been my home for the last year.  (Interestingly, many of them seem to be skinny white kids in hoodies and denim jackets who look more or less like my friends who live in Bushwick now.  Also was surprised by the lack of racial and class commentary in the whole feature, which is of course almost always mentioned as in most of today’s discussions about Bushwick and crime.)

Related and interesting, from the NY Daily News archives — this August 1977 exposé on the “Dying Neighborhood” of Bushwick., covering lootings during the ‘77 blackout and stranger things, such as the eviction of locals for the construction of public housing (weird, never thought about that.) They wrote: Like the South Bronx, blocks of Brownsville, Harlem and the lower East Side, [Bushwick] is a shell of shattered dreams - the rotted body of a neighborhood consumed by the cancer of urban decay that is even now creeping into other sections of the city.”